NSW Tough New Drink-Driving Laws Take Effect This Month

The effects of alcohol and drugs are wide ranging and impossible to avoid, especially on the roads. Drink driving is a factor in about one in every seven crashes in NSW where someone lose their life. Of the drink drivers/riders who were killed in the five-year period from 2013 to 2017, 93 per cent were men and 67 per cent were under the age of 40. Drink driving is a serious offence, it kills innocent people on the roads and the Government is continuously trying to introduce new Laws and Regulations to provide road safety. Under a tough new penalty regime, a zero-tolerance approach means that if you are caught drink driving, NSW Police may suspend your licence immediately. If you are convicted, significant penalties apply, including fines and even prison terms.


It is reported that anyone who is caught drink- or drug-driving in NSW will automatically lose their licence for a period of three months under a tough new regime. The NSW change mimics that introduced to Victoria in April 2018. First-time low-range drink-drivers will be slapped with an on the spot three-month licence suspension and ordered to pay a $561 fine from 20 May 2019. Drivers who are found with drugs in their system will face the same sanction if the offence is confirmed by the laboratory analysis.

The current laws indicate that, only those drivers who have a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher cop an immediate licence suspension. NSW Police said the drink-driving limit has been 0.05 for almost four decades and drivers have “no more excuses”. “For the last 38 years we have been sending that message clearly, so this is not new,” Assistant Commissioner Michael Corboy told reporters in Sydney on Monday. He further stated, “You know how much you’ve had to drink. Make some decisions when you’re drinking about not driving, make some decisions about not taking drugs and driving.” He said NSW drivers should be able to travel the state’s roads without worrying about being hit by a drunk- or drug-driver.

NSW’s peak motoring body said two-thirds of its surveyed members supported the immediate licence suspension for low-range drink drivers. “Only one-in-five opposed it, which is a pretty clear indication the community wants and expects more to be done around this behaviour,” NRMA spokesman Peter Khoury told AAP.

Roads Minister Andrew Constance said it was concerning that 56 per cent of low-range drink driving offenders who take their case to court escape without conviction. It is reported that 6000 low range drink drivers are charged every year and 56% of these escaped conviction in Court, receiving no licence suspension and/or no fine. This law now changes that, making it a lot tougher.  Drivers can still proceed with the matter in Court however, under the new regime they can still face a bigger fine and longer suspension.

Some 68 people died in alcohol-related crashes in NSW last year while preliminary results suggest another 70 died in crashes where one or more drivers had illicit drugs in their system.


No matter who you are, anyone can find themselves charged with alcohol-related motoring offences. The Road Transport Act 2013 governs drink driving penalties, and offences. The readings are categorised as follows:

  • Low Range PCA (0.05 – 0.079 reading);
  • Mid-Range PCA (0.08 – 0.149 reading);
  • High Range PCA (0.15 and above)


Drink driving penalties in NSW First Major offence* within 5 years:


Offence Maximum fine Maximum jail Automatic disqualification  Minimum disqualification
Low range PCA
0.05 – 0.079
$1,100 Nil 6 months 3 months
Mid-range PCA
0.08 – 0.149
$2,200 9 months 12 months 6 months
High range PCA
over 0.150
$3,300 18 months 3 years 12 months



Police conduct about 5 million breath tests each year in NSW. Every police car is a mobile RBT. In NSW, police have the power to:

  • Stop drivers at random to test for alcohol;
  • Arrest drivers who test over the legal limit;
  • Require a driver to take a sobriety test in certain circumstances; and
  • Breath test any driver or supervising driver involved in a crash.

If you want to read more about the offence of Drink Driving, please visit National Criminal Lawyers® dedicated webpage.

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